Some 5,000 people have been booted off a social networking site for gaining weight over the holidays, with 533 Canadians among the so-called “festive fatties” shown the virtual door. Though the mass eviction has the hallmarks of a publicity stunt for BeautifulPeople.com, a gated online community with a ban on ugly, the sheer volume of members expelled — from a site whose members claim supreme interest in appearance, no less — speaks to how normalized overeating has become for the entire population.
To Paul Williams, spurring more exercise out of the half of Americans who are already active is just as important as coaxing the sedentary off the sofa. In Dr. Williams’ study of more than 100,000 runners over nearly 20 years, stepped up exercise was found to have some powerful benefits. But his research is controversial. While Dr. Williams is well respected by other exercise scientists, he is shunned by those in the public-health field.
But, Dr. Nieman says, high-intensity exercise over long periods, like running a marathon, can “take a good thing too far.” Such exertion can induce the release of stress hormones in the body that damp some functions of the immune system temporarily, increasing susceptibility to infection for short periods. He cites a five-year study he conducted on 350 athletes who completed an ultra-marathon 160-kilometer race in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Among the contestants, one out of four reported sickness in the two weeks following the races.
A reader named Jen was feeling somewhat blue and burned-out after the hard training of her last marathon. She wrote to me about the issue and I thought I would share my answer to her here.